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Friday 17 August 2012

Fantasy Premier League 2012/13: Top tips Part I

Fantasy Premier League expert Mark Sutherns offers his advice for the new campaign

Mark Noble is a regular penalty taker for West Ham United

With less than two days remaining before the deadline to register Fantasy Premier League teams for the forthcoming season passes, put in an emergency call to Fantasy Premier League expert Mark Sutherns for some much-needed advice on whom to pick for the new campaign.

According to Sutherns, editor of, the forthcoming season is going to be even trickier than the last with captaincy likely to be the cause of most sleepless nights for managers.

There are, however, one or two bargain buys available this season, so read on for some top tips in this first excerpt of our interview.

What do I need to look out for when picking my Fantasy Premier League team?
The first thing you have to decide is how you divide up your budget. The temptation will be to pile a lot of money into the forward line because last season Robin van Persie stood out and Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero had very strong seasons, so the first thing people do is slot in two or three very expensive strikers, which has an impact on your budget for the rest of the season. It’s not necessarily the way to go.

"The 'pebbles' are the players who will chip in from time to time with goals and assists"
Mark Sutherns

So what is your approach?
I take two or three players I consider to be absolutely essential, either due to their form last season, or in pre-season, what I know about them already, or just my personal preference. These are what I refer to as "the rocks" of the team. I look at how buying them has affected my budget and seek to complement them with much cheaper options –the "pebbles". The rocks are your dependable players who score points for you virtually every week, while the pebbles are the players you drop around them who will chip in from time to time with goals and assists. 

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These are not the heavy-hitters but they will get you points because they play every week. You don’t want to be sitting there on a Saturday morning wondering whether or not X and Y are going to play - that’s not a pleasant feeling - you want to be sure that you have a squad of at least 11 or 12 players who are going to play week-in, week-out, regardless of rotation.

Rocks and pebbles

How do you choose the right "pebble"?
If you’re looking at a £4.5m to £5m price-bracket in midfield you’re not going to get a regular goalscorer but what you will hope to get is a player who turns up every week and, every now and then, gets goals and assists. There are people like Danny Guthrie at Reading, who has had a frustrating time at Newcastle but is almost certain to be a regular starter at Reading in front of the back four. Who’s to say that his assist and goal rate won’t go up as a result of regular football? And he’s right in the bottom bracket of midfielders, so he’s a real bargain. You don’t have to worry about him not playing and it frees up money elsewhere.

So you think Guthrie could be a rising star?
We don’t know how Reading will fare but last season Swansea surprised everyone by playing attacking football, so the newly promoted sides could provide a lot of value. Swansea’s success has increased the value of their players this season but Southampton, Reading and West Ham could prove to be the new Swansea and provide bargain players. Nobody expected Grant Holt to hit double figures last year but he did that comfortably, without even playing every game.

"Southampton's Ricky Lambert immediately stands out as a third striker"
Mark Sutherns

Who else should we look at for as a bargain buy?
This year you’ve got Rickie Lambert, who scored all those goals for Southampton last season. He’s integral to their attack because he got a lot of assists, too. If Southampton are going to stay up, you’d think he’s got to chip in with double figures, so he immediately stands out as a third striker. Mark Noble of West Ham is another very popular option because he’s on penalties, which, along with set-pieces, are a rich source of points. No one is expecting Noble to hit double figures but he should get four or five goals next season, which for a 5m player is a decent return.

What is the secret of good management?
You can’t afford to sit still on players that hit form. For example Michel Vorm played superbly last season and if you were slow to react to that, his price soared. There’s no point in picking a team and thinking that you’re going to keep that team long term. Form and trends develop very quickly, which the better Fantasy Premier League managers react to. There could be two or three players who, having looked like they wouldn’t get regular football, are suddenly in the first team every week. Or an unsung player that suddenly looks like he’s going to be a revelation.


So the message is, don't stand still?
If you sit back and decide to keep the faith in what you’ve got for too long the value of the form players increases and you will be reluctant to pay more for them. You kid yourself and it’s quite hard to swallow your pride and accept that you’ll have to pay more than your rivals did for a player you should have got earlier. So always try and spot the emerging talent and back them.

That’s where the transfers come in, right?
Exactly. Remember you have one transfer every week and so you should take full advantage of that. You’re going to use that one transfer every week and accept that your squad will transform in a very short space of time. You also have wildcards if things go really badly.

"Remember you have one transfer every week and so you should take full advantage of that"
Mark Sutherns

How do wildcards come into play?
Your wildcard enables you to make as many transfers in one Gameweek as you want for free. So on a Saturday afternoon after the matches have been played you can make as many changes to your side as you want right up until the deadline of the next week. They do come into account in your overall transfer account, which comes into play if you’re tied, but it’s an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. There are various approaches to wildcard tactics. You get another one in January so playing the wildcard at the right moment is a strategy in itself.

So you should bide your time with your wildcard?
A lot of people play that wildcard early. If you get to Gameweek 2 or 3 and it becomes clear there are four or five players who are going to emerge as key players then a lot of people play the wildcard at that point. If you don’t get them in then, form and value changes will take them out of your price range.

Squad rotation

Should you avoid players from clubs who frequently rotate their players?
The stronger teams who are in Europe are more prone to rotation but you’re not going to go into the season without any Man City or Man United players. You’re going to have to commit to players from those squads because they are very likely to be at the top of the rankings at the end of the season. So you have to find the players within those squads who are more likely to be ever present. They are more expensive but you have to work out whether they are worth it.

"Along with a cheaper keeper, De Gea is a good combination"
Mark Sutherns

For example, if you take Vincent Kompany or Gael Clichy in the City defence, they have different values but Kompany will play the majority of those matches but Clichy may not. It’s sometimes worth going for those players who are at risk but I would only use them as a short-term option. I would, however, use a City and a United player who is going to be a regular because they will score you points consistently over the season.

What’s the best ploy to use regarding goalkeepers?
There’s a school of thought that you should always go with cheap keepers because they offer the best value and there is a strong argument for that; they play every week, and more often than not they will get more save points than the more expensive options. But there’s an intriguing option this year in David de Gea, who at £6m is a good price for a United keeper. The trouble there is we’re not absolutely certain he’s going to retain his place over the course of the season.

So you’re going with De Gea?
I think he’ll start the season and if he does, along with a cheaper keeper, De Gea is a good combination. You’ll play the United keeper more or less every week because De Gea will make saves away from home. Even if he doesn’t keep a clean sheet he’ll stop a lot of shots – he certainly did last year. That’s one tactic for this year. On the other hand you can put Joe Hart in as a permanent fixture because he will get you 15-20 clean sheets a season.

The second part of Mark Sutherns' top Fantasy Premier League tips will be published on this website tomorrow.

In the meantime, Click to register your team now >

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Key Points

  • Players should combine two standards of footballers
  • Be careful when using your transfer wildcard
  • Gameweek 1 deadline is 11:30am on 18th Aug 2012